Algae blooms a problem but not a trend, study finds

by Adam Hinterthuer, University of Wisconsin-Madison
October 5, 2021

As Earth’s average temperature rises, climate change impacts grow around the globe. Hurricanes and wildfires are bigger and more destructive. Extreme rain events are more common. Droughts last longer.

But, surprisingly, one problem isn’t getting universally worse. According to a study published today in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, there isn’t a widespread upswing of harmful algae blooms in North American lakes.

The finding contradicts the common narrative that warmer temperatures and heavier rains are making algae blooms worse in lakes across the landscape, according to Grace Wilkinson, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Limnology.

Wilkinson is quick to clarify that these results shouldn’t minimize the impact harmful algal blooms can have.

“For many, many lakes, they are a very serious problem,” she says. “But algal blooms are not getting worse everywhere and if we can better understand what’s driving one lake getting worse while another one is getting better, that’s going to give us a lot more tools in our toolbox to better address this problem.

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